Tag Archives: Childhood Trauma

Histories Of Childhood Trauma Highly Prevalent Amongst Prison Inmates

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Those who have experienced significant and protracted childhood trauma are far more likely to be incarcerated as adults than those individuals who were fortunate enough to experience relatively stable and secure childhoods (all else being equal).

PHYSICAL TRAUMA, EMOTIONAL TRAUMA AND ABANDONMENT :

For example, a study carried out by Wolff and Shi found that  56% of a sample of 4000 male prisoners had suffered physical trauma during their childhoods. Furthermore, in the same study, there was found a high proportion of inmates who had suffered emotional abuse as children including abandonment, rejection, humiliation, hostility, frequent and unreasonable criticism, intimidation and indifference ; of these forms of emotional abuse, abandonment was found to be particularly predictive of incarceration as an adult (indeed, more than a quarter of the prison inmates in the study had suffered abandonment as children).

ADVERSE EFFECTS OF CHILDHOOD ABANDONMENT COMPOUNDED BY ABANDONMENT IN ADULTHOOD :

In relation to the issue of childhood abandonment, the authors of the study also highlighted the fact that those abandoned as children not infrequently found themselves abandoned again (by both family and friends) when imprisoned, thus triggering in them memories and emotions connected with their original childhood abandonment – the inevitable result of this is that the psychological problems they are likely to have developed as a result of this original childhood abandonment are yet further compounded by this further experience of abandonment as an incarcerated adult.

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How Does Childhood Trauma Make Individuals More Likely To End Up In Jail?

There are many reasons why the experience of childhood trauma increases a person’s risk of going to jail as an adult; these include :

Implications :

Because many of the behavior that bring individuals into conflict with the law are linked to these individuals’ experience of trauma during their childhoods, Wolff and Shi suggest that it would be of benefit to screen inmates for psychiatric disorders linked to childhood trauma (such as complex posttraumatic stress disorder) and then to offer inmates who could benefit from it trauma-informed therapy.

 

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Four Types Of ‘Dysregulation’ Displayed By BPD Sufferers

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BPD And Dysregulation :

We have already seen from many other articles that I have published on this site that those who have suffered severe and protracted childhood trauma are at greatly increased risk of going on to develop borderline personality disorder (BPD) than those who were fortunate enough to have experienced a relatively stable upbringing.

One of the main symptoms of this very serious and life-threatening condition (about ninety per cent of sufferers attempt suicide and about ten per cent die by suicide) is termed ‘DYSREGULATION.’

What Is Meant By The Term ‘Dysregulation?’

When the term DYSREGULATION is used in the psychological literature it most commonly refers to the great difficulty the BPD sufferer has controlling behavior and emotional states. However, more specifically, the dysregulation that those with BPD experience can be sub-divided into four particular types; these are :

1) EMOTIONAL DYSREGULATION

2) BEHAVIORAL DYSREGULATION

3) COGNITIVE DYSREGULATION

4) SELF DYSREGULATION

Below, I briefly define each of these four types of dysregulation :

  • Emotional Dysregulation :

This type of dysregulation refers to extreme sensitivity and difficulty controlling intense emotions. Individuals suffering from this type of dissociation not only feel emotions far more deeply than the average person, but also take longer to return to their ‘baseline’ / ‘normal’ mood.

For example, a person with BPD who is emotionally dysregulated may be easily moved to intense expressions of anger and then take far longer to calm down again compared to the average person. Others may disparagingly (due to their lack of knowledge and understanding of this life-threatening – see above – and acutely, indeed uniquely, mentally painful condition) describe such an individual as extremely ‘thin’skinned’, as ‘having a chip on his/her shoulder’, ‘a drama queen’ or as or as someone who is prone to extreme ‘over-reactions.’

A leading theory as to why individuals with BPD are emotionally dysregulated is that the development of their AMYGDALA (a brain region intimately involved with how we express emotions and how we react to stress) has been damaged as a result of severe childhood trauma.

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  • BEHAVIORAL DYSREGULATION :

This type of dysregulation refers to the severe problems those with BPD can have controlling their behavior ; such individuals may be highly impulsive and liable to indulge in high-risk behaviors that are self-destructive. Such behaviors may include :

    • excessive drinking
    • excessive drug taking
    • gambling
    • compulsive self-harm
    • risky sex
    • drink-driving / dangerous driving
    • excessive / compulsive spending leading to debt problems

 

  • COGNITIVE DYSREGULATION :

This type of dysregulation refers to disorganized thinking which may manifest itself as paranoid-type thinking and/or as states of DISSOCIATION.

BPD sufferers are also prone to ‘black and white’ / ‘all or nothing’ type thinking, indecision, self-doubt, distrust of others and intense self-hatred.

 

  • SELF DYSREGULATION :

This type of dysregulation refers to the weak sense of their own identity many BPD sufferers feel ( a typical BPD sufferer might express this by saying something along the lines of ‘I’ve no idea who I am‘), feelings of emptiness, and the difficulty many BPD sufferers experienced expressing their likes, dislikes, needs and feelings,

Dysregulation And Stress :

Individuals with BPD are far less able to cope with stress than the average person and dysregulation (relating to all four of the above categories) is especially likely to occur when such individuals are experiencing stress ; indeed, the greater the stress the individual is experiencing, the more dysregulated he/she is likely to become.

 

RESOURCES :

SELF-HYPNOSIS DOWNLOADABLE AUDIO :

‘CONTROL YOUR EMOTIONS.’ Click here for further details.

eBook :

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

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Characteristics Of Narcissistic Parents

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Typically, the narcissistic parent views his/her child as a kind of possession whose sole purpose is to continuously fulfill his/her (i.e. the narcissistic parent’s) emotional needs.

In order to keep the child in this role (i.e. the role of existing solely to meet the parent’s emotional needs), the narcissistic parent may exert power over the child in highly manipulative and controlling ways.

Because such parents are so possessive of the child, as the child grows older and starts to become more independent (especially during early adolescence), the narcissistic parent may feel threatened that his/her hitherto exclusive relationship with the child is becoming increasingly precarious. Indeed, if the child begins to show signs of no longer fulfilling the role that the narcissistic parent has assigned to him/her, such parents may become deeply resentful of the child and start to punish him/her through emotional abuse (including directing intense rage toward the child).

The narcissistic parent essentially EXPLOITS their child, capitalizing on the fact that the child is biologically programmed to be dependent upon him/her (but especially the mother); as already alluded to, this enables such parents to exert enormous power and control over the child, a power which they ruthlessly abuse. Such parents feel little or no empathy for their child and are have scant regard for the child’s personal boundaries.

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Narcissistic abuse tends to be covert in the sense that it takes place in the privacy of the family home ; in public, the narcissistic parent tends to be extremely careful to present as good an image as possible (in an attempt to maintain the illusion of being superior to others), perhaps trying to act ‘the perfect parent’ to keep up appearances (as already implied, narcissists are exceptionally concerned about how others perceive them)’

The child of the narcissistic parent is doomed to failure in as far that whatever s/he does in order attempt to meet the parent’s emotional needs, it will never be enough as, in this regard, the narcissist is impossible to satisfy.

Unfortunately, when growing up with a narcissistic parent, the child is highly unlikely to realize that the parent is suffering from a serious disorder that results in highly dysfunctional parenting. This is because most children just accept their family circumstances as ‘normal’ given that they have no point of comparison (in most cases).

Even more sadly, if and when they do realize how dysfunctional their family environment was whilst they were growing up, perhaps in early to mid-adulthood, they may have already suffered a great deal of psychological damage which may well require extensive therapy to alleviate.

in order to minimize the psychological harm caused to children by narcissistic parents, EARLY, EFFECTIVE, THERAPEUTIC INTERVENTION IS OF FUNDAMENTAL IMPORTANCE.

 

YOU MAY WISH TO READ ONE OR MORE OF MY RELATED ARTICLES (LISTED BELOW):

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

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What Are The Differences Between BPD And Complex PTSD? : A Study

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Because there is a considerable overlap in symptoms between those suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD) and those suffering from complex posttraumatic disorder (complex PTSD) , those with the latter condition can be misdiagnosed as suffering from the former condition (you can read my article about this by clicking here).

In order to help clarify the differences between the two conditions and help show how they are distinct from one another, this article is about a research study which sought to delineate these two very serious psychiatric conditions.

What Are The Differences In Symptoms Between Those Suffering From Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) And Those Suffering From Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (Complex PTSD)?

A study into the different symptoms displayed by sufferers of borderline personality disorder (BPD) and complex posttraumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD) involving the study of two hundred at eighty adult women who had experienced abuse during their childhoods and published in the European Journal of Psychotraumatology in 2014 compared the symptoms of those suffering from BPD with those suffering from complex PTSD.

The following results from the study were obtained :

SYMPTOMS SHARED APPROXIMATELY EQUALLY BETWEEN THOSE SUFFERING FROM BPD AND THOSE SUFFERING FROM COMPLEX PTSD :

Some symptoms were found to be shared approximately equally between those suffering from  borderline personality disorder (BPD) and those suffering from complex posttraumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD). The symptoms that fell into this category were as follows :

  • AFFECTIVE DYSREGULATION (ANGER) i.e. frequent feelings of intense rage that the individual cannot control (regulate)
  • VERY LOW FEELINGS OF SELF-WORTH
  • AFFECTIVE DYSREGULATION (SENSITIVE) i.e. feelings of hypersensitivity that cannot be controlled (regulated)
  • INTENSE FEELINGS OF GUILT
  • INTERPERSONAL DETACHMENT / ALONENESS i.e. feeling cut-off and alienated from others, isolated and apart
  • FEELINGS OF EMPTINESS

However, some symptoms were found to be significantly more prevalent amongst those suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD) than amongst those suffering from complex posttraumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD) as shown below :

SYMPTOMS THAT WERE FOUND TO BE SIGNIFICANTLY MORE PREVALENT AMONGST THOSE SUFFERING FROM BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER (BPD) THAN AMONGST THOSE SUFFERING FROM COMPLEX POSTTRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (COMPLEX PTSD) :

 

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

 

 

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BPD And Hallucinations

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What Are Hallucinations?

Hallucinations are PERCEPTIONS that people experience but which are NOT caused by external stimuli/ input. However, to the person experiencing hallucinations, these perceptions feel AS IF THEY ARE REAL and that they are being generated by stimuli/ input outside of themselves (in fact, of course, the perceptions are being INTERNALLY GENERATED by the brain of the person who is experiencing the hallucination).

Different Types Of Hallucination :

There are several different types of hallucination and I summarize these below :

  • VISUAL HALLUCINATIONS – these involve ‘seeing’ something that in reality does not exist or ‘seeing’ something that does exist in a DISTORTED / ALTERED form.
  • AUDITORY HALLUCINATIONS – these, most often, involve ‘hearing’ voices that have no external reality (though other ‘sounds’ may be hallucinated, too).
  • TACTILE HALLUCINATIONS – these occur when an individual feels as if s/he is being touched when, in fact, s/he isn’t (for example, feeling the sensation of insects crawling over one’s skin).
  • GUSTATORY HALLUCINATIONS – these occur when a person perceives a ‘taste’ in his/her mouth in the absence of any external to the person causing the taste.
  • OLFACTORY HALLUCINATION – this type of hallucination is sometimes also referred to as phantosmia and involves perceiving a smell which isn’t actually present.

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BPD And Hallucinations :

Mild hallucinations are actually not uncommon even amongst people with no mental illness (e.g. believing one has heard the doorbell ring when it hasn’t).

At the other end of the scale, however, are fully-blown hallucinations that involve the person who is experiencing them being psychotically detached from reality; for example, someone experiencing a psychotic episode might hear, very clearly and distinctly, voices that s/he fully believes are coming from an external source (such as ‘the devil’ or a dead relative). A person suffering from such hallucinations cannot in any way be convinced that the ‘voices’ are being generated within his/her own head/brain.

It is uncommon for people suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD) to suffer from the most serious types of hallucinations (as described above); however, under acute stress (and those with BPD are, of course, far more likely to experience acute stress than the average person), the BPD sufferer may experience hallucinations that fall somewhere between the mild and severe types.

For example, if s/he (the BPD sufferer) was constantly belittled and humiliated by a parent when growing up, s/he may, when experiencing severe stress, ‘hear’ the ‘parent in their head’ saying such things as ‘you’re useless’ or ‘you’re worthless.’

However, unlike the person suffering unambiguously from psychosis, when this occurs s/he is not completely detached from reality but is aware the ‘voices’ are being generated within his/her own mind and are imaginary as opposed to real.

Severe hallucinations may be indicative of schizophrenia but can also have other causes which include : delirium tremens (linked to alcohol abuse), narcotics (e.g. LSD) and sensory deprivation.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Trauma Release Exercises

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THE MIND-BODY CONNECTION :

We have seen how the experience of significant and protracted childhood trauma increases our risk of developing both serious psychological and physical problems as adults – e.g. see the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study.

Therefore, therapies for those who, as adults, are suffering the effects of childhood trauma – in the most serious cases in the form of  cPTSD (complex posttraumatic stress disorder) – include not only treatments for the mind, but also ones for the body. (And, because the mind and body are interconnnected, treatments for the body will also, to varying degrees) benefit the mind.

THE FIGHT/FLIGHT/FREEZE STATE :

If we have grown up in an environment in which we were frequently made to feel afraid or threatened (physically, psychologically or both) it is possible the early physical development of our brain has been disrupted in such a way that now, as adults, we find ourselves perpetually, tense, anxious and hypervigilant, or, in other words, continuously in the fight/flight/freeze state.

One result of this is that it can cause us to store up a vast amount of physical and muscular tension.

EXCESSIVE AND CHRONIC TENSION IN THE PSOAS (‘Fight or Flight’) MUSCLE :

A main location in the body where muscular tension accumulates is called the PSOAS muscle (sometimes also referred to as the ‘fight or flightmuscle ; it connects the lumber spine to the legs.

It is sometimes called the fight/flight muscle because when we feel threatened, anxious or fearful, or in response to significant loss, it becomes energized in preparation to assist us with the actions of running away or fighting.

And, if, during childhood, we have frequently been in the fight/flight state this muscle may have become perpetually tensed up to the extent we have habituated to this feeling of tension to such a degree that we no longer register it as abnormal; notwithstanding this, it is an indication that we are still being adversely affected by painful emotions linked to our traumatic childhood (if only on an unconscious level).

TRAUMA RELEASE EXERCISES  (TRE) :

Bercelli, PhD, devised six trauma release exercises designed to alleviate this stored muscular tension. The idea is that the tension is released by a ‘muscular shaking process’ known as ‘neurogenic tremors’ and its purpose is rid us of our deep-seated, chronic, early life trauma-related bodily tension.

 

To read my related article : ‘YOGA FOR COMPLEX PTSD’, please click here.

 

RESOURCE : You can learn much more about TRE by visiting Dr Bercelli’s website – click here.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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ABOUT

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Founded February 2013

ABOUT THIS SITE :

This site comprises over 750 concise and accessible articles about childhood trauma and its relationship to :

It also includes a large number of articles relating to therapies and posttraumatic growth.

All articles by David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

 

ABOUT DAVID HOSIER :

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE) is the founder of this site on which he has published over 750 articles. He has also published several books based on these articles.

He was educated at Goldsmiths College, University of London and holds two degrees in psychology together with a postgraduate diploma in education. He has worked as a lecturer, teacher and researcher.

He is also a childhood trauma survivor and shares some of his experiences on this site.

He suffered serious psychological illness in adulthood which resulted in hospitalizations, ECT, and treatment with major tranquillizers, all to little avail.

He started this blog as a form of self-therapy, and, together with extensive reading, self-analysis and right brain therapies , including self-hypnosis, mindfulness and meditation, this has enabled him to start the life-long process of recovery.

He hopes this blog will also help others.

 

 

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‘Amygdala Hijack’ And BPD

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One of the main, and most problematic, symptoms that those with borderline personality disorder (BPD) suffer from is the experiencing of disproportionately intense emotional responses when under stress and an inability to control them or efficiently recover and calm down once such tempestuous emotions have been aroused. This very serious symptom of BPD is also often referred to as emotional dysregulation.

The main theory as to why such problems managing emotions occur is that damage has been done to the development of the brain region known as the amygdala in early life due to chronic trauma and, consequently, this area of the brain having been overloaded and overwhelmed by emotions such as fear and anxiety during early development causing a longterm malfunction which can extend well into adulthood or even endure for the BPD sufferer’s entire lifespan (in the absence of effective therapy).

The damage done to the development of the amygdala means that, as adults, when under stress, BPD sufferers are frequently likely to experience what is sometimes referred to as an emotional highjack or, as in the title of this article, an amygdala hijack.

What Is ‘Amygdala Hijack’ And How Does It Prevent Emotional Calm?

When external stimuli are sufficiently stressful, the amygdala ‘shuts down’ the prefrontal cortex (the prefrontal cortex is responsible planning, decision making and intellectual abilities).

In this way, when a certain threshold of stress is passed (and this threshold in far lower in BPD sufferers than the average person’s) the amygdala (responsible for generating emotions, particularly negative emotions such as anxiety, fear and aggression) essentially ‘takes over’ and ‘overrides’ the prefrontal cortex.

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Above : under sufficient stress the prefrontal cortex (the seat of rational thought) is shut down, leaving the amygdala (the seat of intense, negative emotions like anxiety, fear and aggression) to ‘run riot.’

As such, the prefrontal cortex ‘goes offline’ leaving the BPD sufferer flooded with negative emotional responses and unable to reason, by logic or rational thought processes, his/her way out of them.

When the amygdala is ‘highjacked’ in this way, there are three main signs. These are :

1) An intense emotional reaction to the event (or external stimuli)

2) The onset of this intense emotional reaction is sudden

3) It is not until the BPD sufferer has calmed down and the prefrontal cortex comes ‘back online’  (which takes far longer for him/her than it would for the average person) that s/he realizes his/her response (whilst under ‘amygdala highjacking’) was inappropriate, often giving rise to feelings of embarrassment, humiliation, guilt, remorse and regret.

Resources:

Click here for further information.

 

eBook :

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

 

 

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Effects Of Trauma Should Be Addressed Rather Than Its Events

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According to J Fisher, PhD, Assistant Educational Director of The Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute and author of the book Healing The Fragmented Selves Of Trauma Survivors, it is of greater importance to address the effects of a person’s traumatic past rather than its specific events. Why should this be?

Sigmund Freud, often referred to as the ‘father of psychoanalysis’, originally treated his patients by helping them to remember, and piece together, their childhood traumatic experiences, the memory of which had been largely repressed.

The idea was that by talking about what had happened to them during childhood, and bringing their traumatic memories into conscious awareness, they would be able to develop a coherent narrative relating to their adverse experiences which would, in turn, alleviate their psychological distress and the symptoms pertaining to their early life trauma.

This kind of therapy is usually referred to as talk therapy or psychodynamic psychotherapy.

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Above : Possible long-term effects of childhood trauma

However, various researchers (e.g. Herman, 1992) have highlighted the fact that many therapists who have adopted this approach to treating their traumatized patients / clients have found that these same patients / clients are made worse rather than better by this ‘talking cure’ strategy.

Specifically, it had been found that patients / clients, when treated in such a way, can become flooded and overwhelmed by the myriad implicit memories this form of therapy is prone, inadvertently, to trigger. To read my article about trauma and implicit (also referred to as non-declarative) memories, click here.

In her book, Fisher takes the view that, rather than bringing into conscious awareness the ‘full narrative’ of our childhood trauma and replaying it in its raw form until we can ‘face-up’ to it, it is more important to learn how to deal with the effects /symptoms of the trauma, such as learning to feel safe,  secure and relaxed in the here and now and to ameliorate present feelings of fear and panic.

Fisher recommends the following cutting-edge therapies for addressing the effects of trauma : mindfulness a based therapies, internal family systems therapy, sensorimotor psychotherapy and clinical hypnotherapy.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Prolonged Exposure Therapy And Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

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Major symptom of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex posttraumatic stress disorder (cPTSD)click here to read about the difference between these two conditions – are fear, anxiety and even terror induced by :

– situations related to the traumatic experience

– people related to the traumatic experience

– places related to the traumatic experience

– activities related to the traumatic experience

Prolonged Exposure Therapy Involves Two Specific Types Of Exposure To Trauma-Related Phenomena :

a) In Vivo Exposure

b) Imaginal Exposure

In Vivo Exposure :

Prolonged exposure therapy works by encouraging the individual with PTSD / cPTSD, in a supportive manner, very gradually, to confront these situations / people / places / activities whilst, at the same time, feeling safe, secure and calm. Because this part of the therapy involves exposure to ‘real life’ situations / people / places / activities it is called in vivo exposure.

This is so important because avoiding these situations / people / places / activities, whilst reducing the individual’s anxiety in the short-term, in the longer-term simply perpetuates, and, potentially, intensifies, his/her fear of these things.

Imaginal Exposure:

The therapy also involves the PTSD / cPTSD sufferer talking over details and memories of the traumatic experience in a safe environment and whilst in a relaxed frame of mind (the therapist can help to induce a relaxed frame of mind by teaching the patient/client breathing exercises and/or physical relaxation techniques; hypnosis can also be used to help induce a state of relaxation). Because this part of the therapy ‘only’ involves mental exposure to the trauma (i.e. thinking about it in one’s mind), it is called imaginal exposure and can help alleviate intense emotions connected to the original trauma (e.g. fear and anger).

Both in vivo and imaginal exposure to the trauma-related stimuli are forms of desensitizing and habituating the patient / client to them, thus reducing his/her symptoms of PTSD / cPTSD.

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How Effective Is Prolonged Exposure Therapy?

Prolonged exposure therapy is a type of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and research into the treatment of PTSD suggests it is the most effective treatment currently available.

What Is The Duration Of The Treatment?

The length of time a patient / client spends in treatment varies in accordance with his/her needs and his/her therapist’s particular approach. However, the usual duration of the treatment is between two and four months, comprising weekly sessions of approximately ninety minutes each.

On top of this, the patient / client will need to undertake some therapeutic exercises/activities in his/her own time, set by the therapist as ‘ homework assignments’. These assignments will include listening to recordings of imaginal exposure therapy sessions.

RESOURCES :

The National Center For PTSD has developed a PROLONGED EXPOSURE APP, or PE APP. Click here for further information and download instructions.

eBook :

 

DIGITAL BOOK THUMBNAIL 1 1 - Prolonged Exposure Therapy And Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

 

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